Comparative and superlative adjectives

Learn about comparative and superlative adjectives and do the exercises to practise using them.

Level: beginner

Comparative adjectives

We use comparative adjectives to show change or make comparisons:

This car is certainly better, but it's much more expensive.
I'm feeling happier now.
We need a bigger garden.

We use than when we want to compare one thing with another:

She is two years older than me.
New York is much bigger than Boston.
He is a better player than Ronaldo.
France is a bigger country than Britain.

When we want to describe how something or someone changes we can use two comparatives with and:

The balloon got bigger and bigger.
Everything is getting more and more expensive.
Grandfather is looking older and older

We often use the with comparative adjectives to show that one thing depends on another:

The faster you drive, the more dangerous it is. 
(= When you drive faster, it is more dangerous.)

The higher they climbed, the colder it got. 
(= When they climbed higher, it got colder.)

Comparative adjectives 1

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Comparative adjectives 2

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Superlative adjectives

We use the with superlative adjectives:

It was the happiest day of my life.
Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
That’s the best film I have seen this year.
I have three sisters: Jan is the oldest and Angela is the youngest

Superlative adjectives 1

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Superlative adjectives 2

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How to form comparative and superlative adjectives

We usually add –er and –est to one-syllable words to make comparatives and superlatives:

old older oldest
long longer longest

If an adjective ends in –e, we add –r or –st:

nice nicer nicest
large larger largest

If an adjective ends in a vowel and a consonant, we double the consonant:

big bigger biggest
fat fatter fattest

If an adjective ends in a consonant and –y, we change –y to –i and add –er or –est:

happy happier happiest
silly sillier silliest

We use more and most to make comparatives and superlatives for most two syllable adjectives and for all adjectives with three or more syllables:

careful more careful  most careful
interesting more interesting  most interesting

However, with these common two-syllable adjectives, you can either add –er/–r and –est/–st or use more and most:

common
cruel
gentle
handsome
likely
narrow
pleasant
polite
simple
stupid

He is certainly handsomer than his brother.
His brother is handsome, but he is more handsome.
She is one of the politest people I have ever met.
She is the most polite person I have ever met.

The adjectives good, bad and far have irregular comparatives and superlatives:

good better best
bad worse worst
far farther/further  farthest/furthest
How to form comparative and superlative adjectives

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Submitted by Darshan Sheth on Fri, 04/09/2015 - 16:53

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Hello sir, Thanks for all the solutions. I just came across a sentence: "Hardly did the men start training than they were sent into battle." I found it grammatically incorrect because some authorities state that we cannot use "than" after "hardly", instead we use "when". Also, we cannot use "did/does/do" and have to use "had/has/have" with "hardly". what is your opinion? are these rules correct? but why? can we ever use future tense in these type of sentences and how?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 05/09/2015 - 10:13

In reply to by Darshan Sheth

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Hello Darshan Sheth,

It is often possible to choose between the past simple and the past perfect in sentences with two actions in the past. This is because both can be used to show actions which occur in a sequence. The difference is that the past perfect also suggests some connection between the two actions: one causes the other, or influences the other in some way. Thus both of these are possible:

Hardly did the men start training than they were sent into battle.

Hardly had the men started training than they were sent into battle.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, But why 'than' because we are not comparing two things else there would have been a comparative adjective? also as per your reply that past perfect also shows some connection between the two actions, when shall we use 'when' in such sentences - after simple past or past perfect?